FRIDAY FOOTPRINT FLASH – BOSTON, ONE YEAR LATER

A year of healing comes full circle when the Boston Marathon gun goes off Monday. My thoughts and prayers will be with all who were touched by the senseless act, but in gratitude for what you have taught us over the year as well as condolence.

You’ve shown us how to remember and forget at the same time — which couldn’t be better symbolized than in running a marathon. Remembering the exhilaration, sheer joy, sense of accomplishment, appreciation for the process of training, bonding with your 20,000 new best friends; while forgetting the aches and pains.

You’ve also reminded us what is important: finish what you start-with steely determination, pay good fortune forward, and understand that hope is the greatest gift we can give to one another.

We are proud of you Boston, and in you we see how we can be better. If you are not running, throw a hug to the universe and know it will catch someone at just the time they need an extra oomph. If you are running, stop to smell a proverbial rose at least once along the course—but if your pace is cooking it can be at the 26.3 mile mark…

CARDIO CIRCUIT TRAINING CHALLENGE

Spice up your cardio workout with a simple circuit routine that doubles as a fitness event. Yep,
cardio sessions that build heart health AND feature competition and novelty to stoke your intensity-pushing and motivation-driving adrenaline.

First, decide how many components you want for your circuit challenge, and then, select the machines. The common choices include treadmills, stationary bikes, rowing machines, hand bikes, elipticals, and stair steppers/stair mills. If you are new to doing this sort of activity, you may want to begin by doing a ‘biathlon’ using the two cardio machines with which you are most familiar. (Add more/different machines to your repertoire to be able to use them for your next circuit challenge AND grow your Iron Footprint!)

Second, set your measurement metrics. Decide between setting the duration of time you will spend on each piece of equipment—and track the distance you cover, OR the distance you will cover—and track the time it takes to cover the distance).

For example, you could spend 10 minutes each on the treadmill and stationary bike and track the distance you cover. Or, you could time yourself for how long it takes you to walk/run 2 miles on the treadmill and then cycle 5 miles.

Keep track of your measurements – as FitBESTS – so you can track your improvement over time.

Keep in mind you can do ‘traditional’ events such as a timed 1-mile run, or ‘nontraditional’ events such as walking backwards for distance at a 20-degree incline. You can also include non-machine cardio exercises such as jumping rope and step-ups.

As your cardio capacity improves (along with your machine repertoire), you can add more components to keep creating unique challenges.

The way I see it, your gym membership allows you to use ALL the equipment, so make the most of your monthly credit card ding – here’s to biathlons, triathlons, quad-athlons, octathlons, heptathlons, decathlons…and any other ‘ons’ you can conjure!

FRIDAY FOOTPRINT FLASH – Calories on Menus

Louisiana lawmakers recently passed a bill that would require chain restaurants to display nutritional information on their menus; net/net, post the calorie count of each menu item.

Hallelujah and yippee!, because knowledge IS power. It’s well documented that most of us are unaware of calorie specifics. It’s also well documented that most of us will make healthful decisions – when we have the appropriate information to do so.

I love a good beignet a much as the next person, but look at like this – if I imbibe in moderation and pay attention to other lifestyle metrics I’d like to think I can stave off my mortality…and thus, have more time to enjoy them.

YOUR ‘NEW YOU’ IN 1 DAY!

No doubt, you’ve heard the promise in one form or another: 30 days to a new you, 6 weeks to a new you, 12 week transformation… And, no doubt, after 30 days or, 6 or 12 weeks of sustained exercise you WILL be new, if not transformed in any number of ways.

But the magic of exercise is its power to bring on a new you in ONE day, then more new you each time after that.

Talk about return on investment (and it’s guaranteed). For each ONE day that you exercise, you get a new you. No break in or probationary period, or trial membership, or try-out—1 day to a new you, and a new you each and every time you exercise that includes a shortlist of improved energy, revved metabolism, stronger muscles, increased joint range-of-motion, balanced emotions, and cognitive clarity. Yes, after just ONE day of exercise…which, is especially important to realize for how it sustains our motivation.

To many of us, but mostly to the previously underactive or chronically-disappointed-by-exercise-results crowd, 30 days might just as well be 30 decades. It’s no secret that some doubt they will be able to string together two days much less 30. Realizing that ONE day yields benefit means that doing ONE day of exercise is an achievement worthy of recognition. The result of ONE day – the wellness benefit and the motivation boost from notching the achievement of doing exercise.

So stop focusing on 30 days, or 6 or 12 weeks from now and instead center on the new that you will be after exercising today. After all, why go for one new you in 30-days when you can actually get 30 new yous in 30 days?

FRIDAY FOOTPRINT FLASH – Check out your county’s health metrics

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation/University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute team recently released the fifth annual County Health Rankings, a report that uses 29 factors to assess the wellbeing of residents in nearly every US county.

The results reveal physical inactivity is decreasing and rates of obesity are leveling off, trends that deserve a glass-half-full head nod. But other results reveal access to activity engagement and healthy food is wealth-dependent, a persisting, unsurprising correlation since SES influences the built environment that either invites or dissuades activity engagement.

Glass-half-empty? On the one hand, any disparity is unacceptable, but looking at this report through the lens of other reports that also reveal encouraging physical activity and obesity rates brings us back to glass-half-full, especially if we dig into the how’s of the improved trends.

The common citizen CAN initiate built-environment change. Many engagement improvements are the ground swells of one person’s advocacy for programming and policy. Net/net, one person can make a difference—and when there are lots of ‘one persons’ making a difference, WE get healthier.

Need an idea to get started on your one-person mission? Here are two examples of policy change that would make an immediate impact.

One, ensure the quality of your community’s programming by requiring leaders to demonstrate competency, either through an earned degree or comparable acquisition of knowledge (reputable fitness certification). Considering the stakes, we can’t leave our wellbeing in the hands of someone who only might be able to help.

Two, increase accessibility to physical activity by instituting joint-use agreements that eliminate ‘territory’ barriers. Schoolyards are just the safe spaces many communities need to offer programming, but squirrely usage rules lock the gates late afternoon and on weekends. Joint use agreements between school districts and community-based organizations can pathway, literally, regular exercise benefits to residents.

Be a ‘one person’ for your community, and look for the results in next year’s report. Better yet, see it in the eyes of the people whose quality of life YOU have improved.

CHOICE – A FEATURE OF MODERN LIFE

Motor skill practice is an Iron Footprint Fitness pillar because the better your proficiency the more activity choice you have, and the more activity choice you have the more likely you will engage any given day.

It just makes sense. If limited to doing one thing, that one thing is going to get old fast. Variety appeals to human nature whether for what we eat, or wear, or how we exercise—and more so every day, the opportunity to exercise choice is a feature of modern life.

Our Ipods are filled with music we forget we have, our readers with material that spans all prose, our TVs offer channels many of us have no idea exist—wander around in the 800s if you haven’t—and, of course, the Web enables access to even more music…books…TV shows.

All this exercise of choice; except when it comes to exercise, which usually means going to the gym at the same time for the same class, or out for a walk/run around the same block. Nothing wrong with this, but even the best intended can get tired of the same, when one missed day becomes a string of several until we recover and return to…the same class or the same run.

There is a solution. Increase your exercise choice by adding motor skill practice to your routine. It’s never too late to improve skills, and you will be surprised how quickly you can develop proficiencies that allow you to add new activities to your repertoire.

Have a catch, hit golf balls, shoot baskets, play hopscotch. Then do it again, and before you know it, you will be ready for the recreation league. Most important your motivation will benefit from the choice it affords.

Don’t leave exercise in the prehistoric days of, gasp, 3G!

FRIDAY FOOTPRINT FLASH – The ABC’s of March Madness

Whether avid fan or fair-weather spectator you are likely aware that we are smack dab in the middle of ‘March Madness,’ the annual three-week long tournament to crown the men’s and women’s NCAA basketball champions.

For parts of these three weeks, many of us rearrange our lives to accommodate game schedules. We (literally) ‘take a break from our regularly scheduled program’ (broadly considered), not to mention rescheduling meetings, etc. if not calling in ‘sick’ altogether. Good luck to the spouses or significant others who don’t follow the tournament. I guess it’s see you after it’s over.

That anything could captivate and hold our attention for more than 10-minutes these days is an anomaly, much less for three weeks. The phenomenon of the tournament is matched only by the phenomenon of viewership, yet for all its complexity, the reason for the madness seems as simple as ABC…

Accessibility – from the philosophy of ‘build it and they will come,’ it’s been built and we show up! With multiple platforms airing the spectacle, not only can each possession of action be seen, but also on the screen that best suits your needs, from smartphones to mounted TVs. Add to that the scads of print media that offer analysis and analysis of the analysis, well, let’s just say the coverage is comprehensive.

Brackets – an estimated 60 million of us fill out a tournament bracket. Some study all season long and use advanced predictive metrics to carefully select each game’s winner. Others play according to the seeding numbers, others yet by the uniform style. Whatever your strategy, filling out a bracket means you have a personal stake in each game. This isn’t just A tournament but MY tournament, as proven by the paper brackets that get tattered from so much handling or cell batteries drained from checking our electronic ones.

Compelling human interest – mix player and coach personalities, the unpredictability of teams that underwhelm and overwhelm, and the pageantry and spectacle of big-time sports and you have a diversion that sustains, not just draws attention. We hope for the underdogs while at the same time cheering the feats of the favorites. And having so much company watching the same drama unfold, we have common ground to connect with others.

For these three weeks, basketball is the conduit of the utmost in humanness – hopes/dreams/agony/ecstasy/conflict/resolution. That we can access others experiencing it, great, but better yet, work on your jump shot and find a league to play in. Or, if not basketball, softball, bowling or whatever else strikes your fancy. After all, capturing your fitness attention is as simple as ABC.

DON’T FORGET THE FUNCTION OF FUNCTIONAL FITNESS

If your gym follows trending fitness then no doubt it offers some rendition of ‘functional fitness.’ Whereas traditional strength training isolates muscle groups to induce strength, endurance, size or power gains (think barbell bench press), functional fitness is all about integration. It teaches muscle groups to work together, and the exercises almost always engage the core (think dumbbell shoulder press while standing one-legged on a Bosu ball).

Functional fitness is all about intra-muscular communication, especially because in traditional routines the upper body rarely connects with the lower body, and besides the antagonists talking to the agonists, other chatter is limited. Biceps day is biceps day, and any benefit to other muscles is (typically) incidental.

Functional fitness developed as a response to the seemingly improbable scenario of being able to bench press more than your body weight yet struggle to complete a benign task like putting an infant in a car seat. Physical activity professionals recognized that everyday movement was not isolative, thus overloading differently could optimize physical quality of life.

Fast-forward to now, and common to the ‘good’ or ‘bad’ dynamics that stir from lifestyle trends, functional fitness is the favored child while traditional strength training has been relegated to the dusty back rooms of gyms.

No doubt, the features of functional fitness make a significant contribution to wellness, cognitive as well as physical since control, synergy, and balance all stimulate different brain function than traditional strength training. But the all-or-nothing, or either-or stance is an ironic disservice to the very thing functional fitness touts – balance.

Like any approach to fitness, take care to engage in ALL of what we know to foster optimum wellness – cardiovascular exercise in its appropriate training zone, strength training to induce gains of strength, power and/or endurance, and stretching to sustain joint range of motion.
Mixing traditional and contemporary might be the ultimate in functional fitness since good old-fashioned strength, mass, and power training is beneficial just as that which induces synergy, balance, and integration.

Yep, and its ok to wear stripes with solids!

FRIDAY FOOTPRINT FLASH – Kids WILL use ‘active transport’ when it’s available!

Even though kids are far less physically active than previous generations, it’s important to realize its value is not lost on them. So, it’s not surprising that when schools increase access to different modes of ‘active transportation’ they take advantage of the opportunity.

Quick poll any group of third graders and they will recite the importance of exercise and a basic understanding of what to do to ensure wellness, only to be confounded about where and how they can do it, especially those in urban environments already plagued with disproportionate rates of obesity and underactivity.

Enter the Safe Route To School initiative that increases active travel to school by financing access features such as crossing guards, bike racks and sidewalks. More elementary schools than ever are participating and student active travel to school is 60 percent higher at participating than non-participating schools. At participating schools, over 1/3 of students walked or biked to school, a rate administrators contend will improve.

Kids themselves know the importance of exercise and can be the first to express frustration about barriers that prevent engagement. Safe Route to School shows kids WILL be active with access provided.

Source – Bridging the Gap, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s research arm

1-REPETITION MAXIMUM LIFTS – TREND THEM BACK

Remember when it WAS pc to talk about your maximum bench press or squat? Ah, the good ‘ole days! Today, the topic brings puzzlement or disgust, from either unfamiliarity or fear you will next strip down to your circa 1980 coaching shorts or leg warmers.

In contemporary fitness, the 1-repetition maximum lift (1-rm) faces extinction given the creation of various iterations of circuit training, and the evolution of weight machines that push free weights to the nether regions of the gym, rendering them prehistoric, almost museum-like in their (dusty) display.

1-rm’s, where it’s you versus a bar loaded with as much iron as a muscle group can successfully push or pull one time, are strength metrics. They are the epitome of isolated, one-dimensional down/up or up/down moves that make contemporary fitness-ists cringe, for there is nothing functional, integrated, or core about them.

Here though is a reminder of how valuable, powerful, if you will, 1-rm’s are to your exercise program, both for their contribution to your overall fitness and impact they have on your motivation.

Muscular development requires tasking your muscles with work that exceeds normal capacity. Called overload, muscles respond by calling in reinforcements to get the job done which results in enhanced fibers, meaning strength or endurance increases. Just as there are different types of strength training routines, there are also different types of overload. Adding 1-rm’s to your routine is a different type of overload than what your routine elicits. Different is good for how it stimulates a unique muscular response that leads to strength, endurance and/or power gains that otherwise wouldn’t be tapped.

1-rm’s gift to motivation lies in the simple objectivity of tracking strength gains. Last month’s 100lb bench press pales compared to this month’s 120lb bench press. Not only do we benefit from this aspect of improved fitness, our motivation strengthens from realizing the achievement.

1-rm’s may be down with contemporary fitness trending away from them, but never count them out. Let the old become new again for they can make a serious contribution to your fitness and exercise motivation.

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